Digital marketing in the age of the coronavirus

Last updated on June 23rd, 2020

The coronavirus has spread uncontrollably and governments around the world are still trying to contain it by closing schools, public spaces, and borders. This has affected all businesses – and marketers need to adapt their digital marketing strategy.

Physical events such as business conferences, sporting events, and concerts have been canceled and global markets have been in a free fall. Companies, such as Unilever, Spotify, and Google, are encouraging employees to work from home. 

Now marketers are asking themselves, “how permanent are these changes?”

A different consumer

The sudden increase of people being indoors has led to a change in lifestyle where consumers have shifted to spending more time online than before.

Brands already catering to the ‘sofa-surfers’ have shown to be in the clear and in some cases have even seen an increase in sales. Brands that are traditionally offline have innovated new online products in an effort to adapt to this new way of living. 

The most important factor of the pandemic is obviously the health of the population, but there are far more people affected than merely the sick. 

Businesses are feeling the effects of the virus and companies are announcing cutbacks one after another.

Marketing departments around the world are noticing the effects as well. 

Most marketers are at a crossroad, wondering which path to take in such an uncertain future. 

This article goes through how marketers are adapting to these new circumstances and what you should keep in mind while getting through the current situation. 

How marketers are responding

  • Short-term adaptations 

Recent research has shown that 61% of marketers are altering their short-term media strategy. However, only 9% are making long-term changes. 

There is a slight move from offline media to online, as marketers in the same study made clear that they would take a more online approach. 

This budget shift is not surprising considering that digital media is consumed at a higher rate due to the online lifestyle of the post-corona consumer. 

Moving to flexible channels

Marketers seeing a cut in budgets will benefit by moving toward cheaper and more flexible channels such as programmatic advertising where consumer presence and available impressions are increasing. 

Digital display ads, social media, and online video are channels that most likely will increase in the short-term media plan. 

Out-of-home advertising such as metro billboards will have much lower exposure due to most people staying at home. Event marketing has come to an immediate stop, and we’ll likely see that marketing budgets cease or shift towards online ads. 

However, not everyone sees marketing budget cuts as the solution. 

Some B2B brands are increasing digital advertising spend to compensate for the leads they otherwise would have picked up at events. 

  • Long-term concern

An existing concern is that no one really knows when the pandemic is over and everyone can go back to their regular lives. 

We are seeing how spend is decreasing in many industries. The travel sector, retail, or events are scrambling to save costs. However, many on-demand online services will likely increase advertising spend – especially in online channels.

Services such as online food delivery services, streaming or online news outlets are benefiting from the higher online presence. These brands will want to take a larger market share in a larger market and increase spend.  

What to keep in mind during the pandemic

The uncertainty of the future is understandable. Nonetheless, this too shall pass. 

It is important to stay focused on the long-term and not shy away from new growth opportunities.

Branding works best long-term. Cutting budget spend too much when not necessary could negatively impact the brand when the pandemic is over. Marketers should not forget that in the midst of a crisis – there could be opportunity. 

“… be ready for the recovery – prepare now for campaigns to reflect the optimism, for popped-up and expanded physical availability to capture resurgence of demand, and ready your promotions and incentives to capture a share of sales when they recover. But above all understand that weathering and not just surviving, but thriving, through change is what we all do now. That’s all our new normal, and has been for a while.”

Chris Stephenson, regional head of strategy and planning, PHD APAC

Seize the opportunities 

This is a new time for everyone, not to mention the consumers. 

Now that many are staying indoors more than just a couple months ago, we are seeing a new type of online behaviour. 

During the coronavirus, consumers are online at times which marketers may not be used to. Online activity and shopping could shift to mid-day, when activity in normal circumstances is low. 

Online activity could also be higher since there is a constant stream of breaking news. 

Media will be cheaper as marketing budgets in certain industries are cut. If there is a possibility, capitalising on this will have clear positive effects on share-of-voice.  

Digital opportunities

With many affected companies decreasing their digital marketing budgets, we are seeing a drop of up to 47% in CPM and CPC prices (due to a decline in competition). This is an ideal opportunity for some marketers to acquire new customers at a lower cost than previously.

Consumers spend more time reading or watching the news than ever before. Marketers now have the opportunity to capture more eye-balls by advertising on these popular websites, at a lower cost than the pre-corona period

Adapt to the new customer

For a brand, an online presence has never been as important as today. 

Try to treat your daily work as business as usual, but keep it digital. 

Locate your target audience and how their lifestyle has changed and map out how you should be targeting them. 

What is your target audience’s emotional context? What do they want to hear? How should you be communicating with them? 

Do not underestimate how the coronavirus has changed your customers and how it has affected their demands.  

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the coronavirus has left its mark in history. The question is rather how much things will change and how will the world look when it’s all over. 

We have now seen the effects on different industries and marketing efforts, but how will marketers adjust?

More digital solutions need to be considered for all industries. Webinars, digital entertainment and virtual doctor visits are examples of solutions to come when physical contact is restricted. 

Even during a time that feels like a downward spiral – there can be an opportunity to be seized. 

Check out our customer stories to learn how others have achieved success in their advertising with Match2One.

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Jonathan Olsson

Jonathan Olsson

Digital Marketing & Growth Manager

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28 comments

Albert says:

Thanks for the Jonathan for the article, very helpful! Quick question, Do you think that univerities and school will change the way they operate, will the mayority of classes be will be held online?

Hi Albert – great question! There has been an increase in online courses and MOOC’s in the past decade. Now that many universities and schools are closed and holding classes online we are likely to see further understanding in the online infrastructure already available. Once this pandemic has passed, students and professors/teachers will be familiar with an online way of learning and teaching. We will probably not see a sudden online-only approach, but opportunities to do things more efficiently will be revealed and made use of.

Have a great week!